By Paul Chimera
Salvador Dalí Historian
I’m continually dazzled by Dalí’s undying diversity. OK, shameless alliteration aside, it really is rather extraordinary to consider how truly diverse Salvador Dalí’s catalog was.
While Dalí was indefatigably a Surrealist, his work embraced so many different styles that it’s little wonder he was so inscrutable to categorize.
Take, for example, his monumental The Sacrament of the Last Supper of 1955. While it’s the most popular work of art in Washington, D.C.’s National Gallery of Art, it doesn’t seem to “fit” neatly into any specified genre. Is it Surrealist? Well certainly in some ways it is. Is it realism? Yes, though in a surrealistic manner. Is it modern? Yes, but in a classical style. Is it classical? It is, but with a kind of modern twist.
What we know for sure is that it’s an enormous favorite with the public – but a kind of art work-non-grata in the minds of the museum brass. They’ve never disguised their disdain for it (undoubtedly born of jealousy).
Let’s move on to some other Dalís . . .
While, yes, Dalí was the supreme Surrealist, he was also the artist who painted the Briggs Family portrait in a manner that – save for a few tangential background details – is about as anti-surrealist as you can get.
It’s literally hard to believe that the limp watches from The Persistence of Memory
were painted by the same man who painted this traditional, almost department store photography studio-like canvas of the Briggs clan. It shows off Dalí’s exceptional realistic technique, to be sure.
Yet so does Nature Morte Vivante (1956, Salvador Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida). This work just might be the single most photographic, most hyperrealist of all the oils Salvador Dalí executed.
The irony is that many people not very well acquainted with the art of Salvador Dalí assume he just painted droopy clocks. They’re aware of The Persistence of Memory but not much else he did. In other words, they know of very little diversity in Dalí’s work.
The fact is, of course, that the same artist who painted a man with an impossibly elongated, phallic buttock that needed to be held up with a crutch,
also painted the utter magnificence of Christ of St. John of the Cross – without question one of the greatest religious paintings of all time.
The Catalan genius who painted this…
…is the same man who painted this…
Dalí’s diversity is just one more reason to admire the man.
[All images gratefully used under Fair Use provisions for journalistic purposes only]